Harper’s Island premieres tonight at 10:00 pm on CBS. I wrote a review of it for PopMatters.
I asked to review it because, early in the fall, I got a screener with an excerpt of the pilot on it, and it looked pretty interesting. If you don’t know, the story is a 13-episode murder mystery. Guests arrive on an island off the coast of Seattle for a week-long wedding celebration. The island also happens to be the site of some gruesome murders that took place seven years prior. Guess what? Before the party even arrives, someone starts picking off the invitees. (My guess? The bride’s father. Weddings are damn expensive, and I bet he’d do anything to cut down the guest list.) It’s a little Lost, a little 10 Little Indians, and a little I Still Know What You Did Last Summer all rolled into one.
The best part about that little half-screener, though, was that Bill Pullman was in it. Even better–he played a very un-Pullman character, the wacky uncle who shows up at the ferry with a mariachi band and immediately starts hitting on bridesmaids. The minute his grinning face flashed across the screen, everything about the show seemed awesome. Now, imagine my surprise when, after I get the official, honest-to-God, full-length pilot a couple weeks ago, the mariachi band shows up, the drunk man wearing the sombrero turns–and it’s Harry Hamlin. What happened to Pullman?
The stars search anxiously for Bill Pullman.
Now, it’s not fair to review a show based on the pre-screener. In PopMatters, I gave Harper’s Island a bad review based on what was there, not what could have been there. Unfortunately, the series premiere does not do so well as a full hour. Man, that thing is plagued with expositional dialogue. I still love the idea of a murder mystery that gets resolved after 13 episodes, and maybe it gets better as it goes on. But, somewhere between that first screener and the full pilot, all of the life seemed to get sucked out of the show. And I can’t help but think that, even though his character is minor at best, the loss of Pullman had something to do with it.
At least I can picture him leaving the show in the manner of his grand entrance–full of tequila and with a screw-it-all attitude. I’m guessing it was his choice to go. For some reason, I don’t think the show dumped him Harry Hamlin. Maybe if it was Tom Hanks.
Photo: Chris Helcermanas-Benge/CBS ©2008 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.